The Chorley Group Research Society, ‘Perfect Points’ held a special meeting at Westhoughton Masonic Hall on Sunday 11 November to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Perfect Points Chairman, Gary Smith welcomed 101 guests, a fitting number to celebrate 100 years. The principal guests were the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and his wife Maureen.
Other distinguished guests included Assistant Provincial Grand Master Stuart Seddon, Chorley Group Chairman Peter Lockett, Peter Allen vice chairman, all of whom were accompanied by their wives. Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp ensured the proceedings ran smoothly and Godfrey Hirst Provincial Grand Chaplain provided a wonderful oration along with grace and thanks either side of the supper.
The Mayor of Westhoughton Arthur Price and his wife Lynne, the Lady Mayoress were also in attendance completing a galaxy of special guests and dignitaries who joined Perfect Points members, brethren and their families from across the Chorley Group, for this very special celebration meeting.
Gary Smith started the evening off by welcoming everyone, before he read a poem written by the father of his wife, Jennifer. Gary comes from a military background having served in the Royal Engineers, both his and Jenny’s fathers had also served in the British Army. The armistice being very much in the hearts of all of the Smith family and Gary said this had stimulated him to write the paper he was to present and organise this very special meeting to celebrate 100 years since armistice day – 11th day of the 11th month,1918. Gary declared ‘it had to be done!’
Frank Wilkinson from Anderton Lodge No 8470, Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master, set the scene by talking about how the First World War started; it was all down to someone taking a wrong turning and ultimately into the path of an assassin. He explained with passion, that the result of this simple mistake was the loss of life on a catastrophic scale of over 14,000,000 servicemen.
Frank concluded his part of the presentation with a moving rendition of the ‘Flanders Fields’ poem having first mentioned how the poppy became the symbol of remembrance.
Gary Smith then delivered his paper; ‘Freemasons and World War One’, which featured the story of Freemasons local to the Chorley Group, five of which had been killed in active service and illustrated with photographs projected onto a screen.
Gary is a member of the Peace Lodge No 2269, although at the time of WW1 his lodge met in Wigan, it is now however part of the Chorley Group. Sadly, one of the Peace Lodge members, William Hemms lost his life in the conflict. Gary described William as a popular local man who was not only a Mason but also an entertainer and landlord of the Honeysuckle Public House in Poolstock, Wigan.
Stuart Wilson, a member of Coronation Lodge of Westhoughton No 7258 and retired RAF officer, took to the floor to talk about the evolution of the RAF and the part that aircraft played during the conflict. He described how pilots would simply drop bombs over the side of the aircraft and showing a photograph of how the crew of the naval vessels had to grab the planes to assist in landing on the carrier ship and prevent them from tipping overboard!
Gary then continued his presentation and talked about some of the Freemasons from the local area who had received the Victoria Cross or other medals of bravery following their own heroics. Some of the medals were on display in a museum Gary had set up in the conservatory area of Brookfield Hall. There was a good selection of memorabilia on view which guests could see before and after the presentation.
Gary talked about the construction of Freemasons Hall, which is the headquarters of The United Grand Lodge of England. He pointed out that the building is in fact a war memorial to those Freemasons who lost their lives in WW1 with some interesting photographs showing the construction of the building.
Following the presentation, it was time for some wartime food. The guests dined on a selection of dishes that would have been typical of those eaten by the troops in the trenches. However, it is unlikely the troops dined in such wonderful surroundings as Brookfield or were serenaded by Ray Dainton on the piano as they ate their meals! But that was the scene for those dining this evening with vegetable soup, potatoes, corned beef and onion pie and apricot bread and butter pudding was served.
During each course Mark Howard, Perfect Points Treasurer, described the significance of each dish and how it may have differed to what the troops would have eaten. He mentioned that on many occasions horse meat was eaten by the troops but advised that this was definitely not the case for this occasion.
Mark, along with Allan Shields, Perfect Points Vice Chairman then arranged a raffle raising £520 to be split between the Poppy Appeal and the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival. The Chairman of Brookfield Hall Trustees, Malcolm Dewhurst, was presented with a special memorial plaque by Gary.
The guests sang the national anthem, which was just the start of the singing activity for the evening and then toasted the health of both the Grand Master and the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of West Lancashire Tony Harrison.
Tony responded by saying how much Maureen and he were enjoying the evening and thanked Gary for all his hard work in arranging the evening’s events. Tony also thanked Frank Wilkinson and Stuart Wilson for their contributions to the presentation. He concluded by wishing everyone a happy Christmas.
Godfrey Hirst gave a moving oration which delivered the message that we should all look to maintaining and keeping peace in the world. He described the sad tale of how his grandfather had lost his life in WW1 and the manner in which his grandmother was told, reading an extract of a letter that had been sent to her from the front line. His own father was only four years old at the time of his grandfather’s death – an example of the devastating impact the war had on families at the time.
Gary thanked his distinguished guests with floral presentations to Maureen Harrison, Lynne Price and not forgetting his own good lady wife. It was also Gary and Jennifer’s wedding anniversary, so the flowers were most welcome as she thanked Gary.
Gary also presented framed rolls of honour to Peter Lockett, one for each hall in the group. A fourth one had been secretly framed and then presented to Tony Harrison who was surprised and most pleased to receive it.
The research behind the roll of honour owes much to the support from the various lodge and chapter secretaries whose lodges existed during WW1, for the information they provided from local records and knowledge.
Perfect Points prides its self on the contributions made from members within the Chorley Group and this meeting was a good example of local research and contributions being used to produce a very interesting meeting.
The final part of the evening’s entertainment was provided by The Lostock Brass Band who played a selection of wartime songs which included the classics: ‘Rule Britannia’, ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Land of Hope and Glory, as well as ‘Oh it’s a Lovely war’ and ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’.
Word sheets were on the tables and with a little encouragement from Peace Lodge’s John Cunliffe everyone joined in by singing superbly. In between the songs John added commentary explaining the origins of each song and why they became wartime classics. A fine and rousing conclusion to a memorable and enjoyable evening.
Mark Howard closed the proceedings with the Tyler’s Toast.
‘Lest we forget’
Future meetings of Perfect Points will be advertised on the Chorley Group Website:
All Freemasons are very welcome to attend future Perfect Points meetings, from Chorley or indeed any other group in West Lancashire or neighbouring Provinces.
Article and pictures by Allan Shields.